Somewhen last year I started thinking about what the consequences of an “invisible library” might actually be (Joining the Flow – Invisible Library Tech Support and The Invisible Library (Presentation)) and it seems like one consequence might be – no books!
Following a series of workshops on Library futures, it seems as if the OU Library is going to get rid of it’s book stock… Now this isn’t actually as daft as it first might sound: the OU Library doesn’t loan out physical books to students as a rule (except maybe to local students) and the book stock is maintained for scholarly (course writing) purposes, as well as to support research.
It also turns out that maintaining the book stock is expensive: the cost of shelf space and overheads on top of the costs associated with issuing loans and returns, as well as restacking books, binding and cataloguing (i.e. the total cost of ownership of the book) means that the annual cost per book loan per year exceeds the cost of users just buying the equivalent books for themselves and reclaiming the costs.
So it seems that the Library will be ramping up its disposal policy and getting rid of its book stock over the next year, apart from a small collection of books donated to the University by the books’ authors (the “vanity collection”, apparently?!) and books authored by members of the university (the “repository collection”).
In place of the book stock, university members will be encouraged to purchase books themselves, and reclaim the costs via a faculty managed fund. Once the book has been finished with, it will place on the ‘virtual bookshelf’ (i.e. an ‘invisible’ bookshelf ;-), using one of the first devlab_alpha applications, a revamping of the old KMI bookshelf application. (This application allowed individuals to maintain a list of ISBNs of books they had in their office on a personal profile page, so that other people could see what books were available ‘down the corridor’ and then borrow them at a local/personal level.)
I’m hoping that a variant of my Library Traveller script will become part of this invisible library play, though rather than looking up books on the soon to be redundant OPAC, it’ll look books up on the Virtual Library shelves, as well as integrating with the expenses claims system (so when you buy a book on Amazon, for example, you can automatically file a claim at the same time).
I’m also hoping that the incredible Fran Thom, who’s managed to argue this initiative through, will be able to come up to the second Mashed Libraries event in July – Mash Oop North – and motivate some of the other HE libraries that will be gathered there to drop some of their collections too…
PS it seems that user surveys ranked the smell of books in the library higher than the actual book stock in terms of what people expected from the new library building when it was being designed, which maybe explains why we have the scented air in the library? At the moment, they pipe in an aroma somewhere between pine forests and olive groves, on top of the natural smell of the building, but whether this is to mask the disappearing smell of the book collection when it does go, or to allow the Library staff to pipe in a replacement “essence of books, number 23” scent when the book collection disappears, I don’t really know?)
PS Always check the date stamp of a post..;-) But it makes you think, doesn’t it…?!